Review – What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been (“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”)

Originally titled The Hobbit: There and Back Again, this is the culmination of The Hobbit trilogy and quite possibly the end of any other J.R.R. Tolkien movie to come. That is, unless director Peter Jackson can pull a hat trick and come up with a script for The Silmarillion, Tolkein’s final middle-Earth book. I betcha he does!
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Anyway, we pick up the story where Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), heir to the Dwarf throne, and the last 12 Dwarves, are trying to take back their mountain castle home of Erebor from the gigantic fire-breathing dragon, Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) and regain the cavernous mega-tons of gold and untold riches inside. BUT! Smaug got really super-pissed, escaped, and took out his formidable anger on the nearby village of Laketown, burning it to a crisp.
 
Good news: Bard, the bowman (Luke Evans) kills Smaug with a fancy black arrow. Bad news: An Orc army of massive proportions is marching towards Erebor. Worse news: Thorin develops “dragon sickness” over his new kingship obsession and the immense stockpile of gold, and goes all loopy in the head finding the one crowning jewel that symbolizes ultimate power… the Arkenstone! But Bilbo has it and has a plan to use it.
 
Y’see the Elves want certain riches inside Erebor as well as the people of Laketown to rebuild their lives, after all, it’s what Thorin promised them in the last film. So the huge Elven army ally with the smaller human army to get their shares and Bilbo gives them the Arkenstone as a bargaining chip, but that don’t work ’cause Thorin’s gone off the deep end; power has corrupted his mind. Just as a big fight is about to start, a giant army of Dwarves come a callin’ to help their kin. But just as THAT fight is about to start, here comes the damn Orc army! Geez, Louise! As you might expect, all hell breaks loose with everyone fighting everyone else in a melee of swords, bodies, and total chaotic mayhem.
 
Just as the tide turns and Thorin finally snaps out of his sickness to rally his kin, a second wave of Orcs and killer giant bats show up and attack! WTH? Seriously? All seems lost, but then that goofy forest wizard, Radagast the Brown (Sylvester McCoy) comes to the rescue with a huge flock of equally sized giant eagles. Yay! Meanwhile, Thorin does hand-to-hand combat with his long-time foe, the dreaded white Orc, while the Elves Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangiline Lilly) fight their own share of Orc’s as well.
 
Bilbo somehow makes it through all this massacre relatively unscathed and leaves for home with more stories (and emotional wounds) than he’d care to remember. And then there’s that pesky One Ring that he kept. . . hmmmm, ya think that might come in handy one day?

Picking up immediately from part two’s Desolation of Smaug, the action is one big CGI-fest with ugly Orcs, bulbous goblin creatures, not to mention non-stop massive battle sequences one after another (beheading’s, anyone?) that almost takes away from the main characters story. Director Peter Jackson does his thing with his signature swooping crane shots, close-ups for dramatic effect, and lotsa sword play, but still has time to give us some genuine quiet personal moments that show us he’s not all about villainous fantasy sequences.

Thank the four screenwriter’s, Jackson, Fran Walsh, Phillippa Boyens, and Guillermo del Toro, for wrapping up this trilogy with solid action, a wisp of humor here and there, and heart-felt humanity. . . even when that humanity comes through in a Dwarf, Elf, or Hobbit. 

Jason & the Argonauts  (1963)
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Okay, so you have something that everybody else wants, and you’re willing to kill to keep it. A mountain full of Dwarf gold? Sure. What about a golden fleece that will bring prosperity to your lands and cure any disease or even death? Yeah, that’s pretty nifty, too.

Based on Greek myth, this outstanding movie directed by Don Chaffey and utilizing the amazing stop-motion animation skills of Ray Harryhausen, is a wild adventure of Jason (Todd Armstrong), a young man who is set a quest: to find and retrieve a magical golden fleece from a distant land. But it won’t be easy as King Pelias (Douglas Wilmer) wants him dead because a prophecy says that Jason will eventually kill him. Well, that not good!

So, Pelias’ nasty son, Acastus (Gary Raymond) sneaks on board Jason’s crew of the Argo to sabotage the voyage and make sure that Jason dies accidentally..  or by his hands, whichever comes first. On the trip, which is viewed by the always arguing gods Zeus (Niall MacGinnis) and Hera (Honor Blackman), meet all manner of crazy and bizarre people and sites on their voyage. There’s King Triton (no, not the Disney version) and the Clashing Rocks, a 50-ft tall killer bronze statue named Talos, and Phineas (Patrick Troughton), a blind prophet terrorized by two ugly, screeching harpies.

They finally make it to the island of Colchis where the fleece is, but they’re not exactly welcomed with open arms. The islands King Aeetes (Jack Gwillim) wants the Argonauts dead and Jason has to battle the Hydra, a seven-headed dragon in order to steal the fleece, but even after he does that and defeats the Hydra, King Aeetes conjures up a bunch of evil sword-wielding skeletons from the Hyrda’s teeth! Wicked!

Like I said, it’s a wild adventure filled with betrayal, lust, murder, magic, and even Hercules thrown in for good measure! Screenplay by Beverly Cross and Jan Read that is steeped in Greek mythos and yet has a nice feel to it with the dialogue that isn’t goofy or sappy. I really loved this movie as a kid and Harryhausen’s work is jaw-dropping for its time, and he regarded this his best work ever. This is more than a ‘sword ‘n’ sandal’ movie, it’s a classic that is also on AFI’s Top Ten List for Best Fantasy Films.

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